tv Lectures in History CSPAN December 24, 2016 8:00pm-9:11pm EST
on the >> thank you, general. thank you, rob. [applause] >> thanks to the general and to rob for bringing us this fascinating conversation. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] announcer: you are watching american history tv, 48 hours of programming every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter for information on our schedule and to keep up with the latest history news. dickinson college
professor kotten siler -- cotton seiler teaches a class about the emerging definitions of whiteness and blackness in colonial america and how they impacted the emergence of country music. you described how laws elevated poor whites above slaves and free blacks, which helped white frontiersman form a separate group identity. some of the traditions of this group and their ballots became the basis of country music. his classes about an hour and 10 minutes. prof. seiler: good morning, everyone. today we are going to talk about country music, hillbilly music. i'm going to ship -- shift back and forth between the terms. one of the things we see from peterson is that country music is music of my damaging -- music of modernity. in response to it, grapples with it. i want to frame our discussion around couple of quotations.
the first is from an anthropologist. "country music is widely disparaged and racialized terms and assertions of its badness are quickly flamed in specifically racial terms. for cosmopolitan americans especially, country is bad music because it is widely understood to signify an explicit claim to whiteness, not as an unmarked, neutral condition lacking or trying to shed race, but as a foregrounded claim of cultural identity of bad whiteness unredeemed by ethnicity, folkloric authenticity, progressive politics, or elite musical culture." i want us to think about that. country music as articulating and conveying this type of marked white particular a. y. particularit from aond quote is
writer and historian in the book "red dirt," a memoir of growing up in oklahoma. "country music, evangelism, romanticism, patriotism, and white supremacy have been able to coalesce my people, the descendents of the original settlers, as a people united despite class differences or social roles, during black, latino, asian, and native american nationalism, which exhibit similar contradictions and limitations." what we have here is basically to expressions -- two expressions that country music and whiteness belong together in a fundamental way. i want us to think about my people here. people," then "my descendents of the original settlers, people united despite
class differences read country music as one of the things that are putting these people together. that, into talk about addition to thinking about oppositionic and its . we have what we might call the twin poles of country music. these are opposition, and they structure the thematics of country music. you might say that they correlate to specific artists, in particular the two artists which peterson is concerned with an early phases of this book, jimmy rogers and the carter family. i'm going to put them up there as representing -- there are
exceptions -- but basically representing these two poles. music as i said, country is a music that responds to my identity -- response to modernity. modernity begins with the rise of capitalism, the rise of political liberalism in the 17th and 18th centuries, and with new developments in technology. it is within modernity also that we know from this class we see race get constructed. race is something that gets built during this age of encounter between the 15th and 19th centuries. what we know from that is that race is a modern invention. country music, too, is invented in the crucible of modernity. the carter family representing these different polls.
home.is correspondingly, jimmy rogers represents in some ways the road. someone described the experience of living in modern-day is solid melting into air. everything is in flux, everything is in tumult. all of the things that used to be fixed are now called into question. it is a time of tremendous liberation. literally liberation from one social station. under feudalism, people cannot move up or down. rise ofnity with the capitalism, all of a sudden people have much more mobility. they are emancipated from the land. this is experienced as tremendously exhilarating, but
also terrifying, to have this newfound freedom. the carter family represents all the virtues of home, rootedneess , where's jimmy rogers represents the road. one of the things that happens in modernity is that people move greater distances and with greater frequency than they had before. the carter family representing , they need toy hold to the old virtues, a moral code. , this new word that comes into being in the 19th , fun and send -- fun and
sin. all the new opportunities that modernity affords. modernity remembers the time of the rise of cities, the rise of places where different people come together to engage in commerce, not just economic but sexual as well. if the carter family represents a type of parochialism, staying in one place, being loyal to one specific neck of the woods, so to speak, jimmy rogers represents a type of cosmopolitanism, type of worldliness that you don't necessarily see in the country music aligned more with the carter family. , they structure
all sorts of opposition in country music, and it is because country music is always the music of the people on the move, the people who are displaced by various developments in modern-day -- and modernity. what we see is that this happens very early on. now we can get back to roxanne dunbar ortiz's expression of her people. who are her people? hillbilly who create are going to be known as the scotch irish. scotknown as the ulster are a white ethnic group that immigrates to united states in the 1600s and 1700s. where did they come from?
you might say, well, we are from ireland, but it is much more propagated. ulster scots are from northern ireland and they are people on the move because of empire. we noted that in the 15th century to the 19th century, this is the area not just of encounter of people of different racial groups, but also the area of colonialism and imperialism. the british empire, its first imperial holdings starts out on .he mainland first, the english colonize wales and scotland and then turn
their attentions to ireland. this is a map of the irish sea, england over heel, -- over here, wales and scotland above it. the people known as the scots-irish or the ulster scots are basically what we might troops. as imperialism the reason is that ireland is colonized by the english beginning in about 1169, but it is very haphazard and loose affiliation of states and small principalities. it is not until the 16th century that thery viii british create a system that they call plantation. english want to
create a stable colonnade in --land -- a stable colonnade colony in ireland. it is anything but stable up to that point. --t they do is they plant they basically plant subjects of the king in ireland, especially northern ireland. what james i says about these people and what he wants to happen in northern ireland. 1603, "the setting of religion, the introducing of civility, order, and government amongst a barbarous people, acts of piety and glory, and worthy always of a christian prince to endeavor."
these settlers as he described were of a middle temper between the english tender and the irish root breeding and more likely to adventure than the english. these early settlers are mostly going to be from this part of england and scotland. the ulster scots. they come into ireland. the king has opened all this land for settlement, but what he really needs is land to be dispossessed from the indigenous irish. and the ulster scots come into ireland in the 15th and 16th, through the 17th century, are essentially settler colonial's. it means they're going to be there to dispossessed the indigenous irish of the land, to establish some sort of english settlement, and stay there, to
live, to transform this region into -- well, into englishness. ancestorsiz calls her empire shock troops. the westward soldiers of empire. understanding of the king and of the english government is that these settlers will be always fighting, always under threat. the temperament that develops among the scots-irish is the temperament of endowment, constant vigilance against incursions here among the irish. imagine --as you can
by these soldiers, by the english government, by most literature, with this term savages. it is not really a new term, but it comes into currency with the english and scottish settlement of ireland. if we go back a few class periods and we see -- and we think about the ideology of race ist develops, what we see that the ideology of race is absolutely essential for people who construe themselves as christian to be able to do what? be able to do what? what does race enable europeans to do?
>> set one group higher than another. prof. seiler: for what reason? >> to displace power, i guess. like, set whites a part from everyone else, in the context we have been discussing it in. rob: secreta -- prof. seiler: to create a hierarchy. >> to take over land with a mandate. prof. seiler: somebody wants something more has something that you want, and you have got to take it. christianity tells us what? that.steal, don't do christianity basically says, be good to each other. under this context of violent dispossession of people from their land and their goods, their resources, you need some sort of justification. and race comes in to do that very handily.
the understanding of the irish least not ofr at the same caliber, not the same , is in as the english place from very early on. as early, in fact, as the 13 40's. there is a set of statues that prohibits -- a set of statutes that prohibits intermarriage between irish people and english settlers. this is a racial distinction. why ifn't understand they are white people also, why did they get segregated out so much as apparently european settlers? prof. seiler: that is a great question, because we look back historically with our only understanding of race in the 21st century.
we see, they are all white people. but that is not the way they were seen at the time. they were seen as barbarians, close to animals. their condit low, so brutalized, that they are not really white. and also whiteness as we understand it is itself a racial formation and construction that -- fornto being whiteness, i would say the key decade is the 17th century, and i will talk about that in a minute. tyler, if i were to look around this room today and say, there are a lot of people who are white in here, or caucasian. in the 19ersion of me century would look around and tuton, andelt, a , alo-saxon, and iberic hebrew. i would see with different eyes.
now what we see is whiteness that is right monolithic, one big thing. they certainly did not see that at that time. but it is a good question. wait a minute, these people were all white. the british did not understand the irish in those terms. remember, race is coalescing at this time. empireoot soldiers of dispossessed the indigenous irish and remained there for many years. they were settled by the british and remain the last british colony, even to this day. but over the next couple centuries, there is a number of factors that push the scots-irish out of ulster and into the american colonies. primarily, desire for land,
desire for new fortunes, things getting economically tapped out in ireland. and it is a perfect situation for the scots-irish, who are soldiers of empire, to keep pushing westward. in fact, what we see is this pattern replicated as many scots-irish enter into the colonies. highland and scots-irish is an interesting distinction. what you see as many highland scots, who are more closely allied with the british crown, mostly go north. upstate new york, vermont, new england, whereas the ulster scots come down here primarily landing in philadelphia and spreading out across
pennsylvania. behold, york, gettysburg. this ridge we are in right here, what do they call this method to north? it is a really poetic name. north mountain. and amount mountain to the south, beautiful name -- south mountain. these ridges of the appalachians here stretching down into , northa and the piedmont carolina, south carolina, and kentucky and tennessee as well. this is the path of most of the scots-irish settlers. couple more maps. bit.ge a little
settlers originally coming into the wilderness road cumberland gap into the present day southeast. they are say that primarily small farmers, and they don't even settle necessarily the best land. but land is at such a premium that the desire is to arrive somewhere, to settle, and if it is too crowded, then to move on. and we see this pattern replicated over and over again,
and one of the things that dunbar ortiz tells us, moving even further down -- and all the way over into texas and oklahoma by the 19th century. dunbar-ortiz very much wants to e familyh that her oki are the descendents of these scots-irish who kept pushing west. so to get back to this notion of whiteness and why whiteness is --important to country music x's statementt fo that it represents that whiteness -- represents bad whiteness. one of the things we see today is that whiteness can mean not having a racial identity.
i'm white, i am nothing, i am just normal. country music reflects a particular claim to a sort of whiteness, and what we see with the scots-irish people as they come to the united states, they are both privileged in terms of their racial identity and subordinated in terms of their class identity. that is the real interesting thing about country music, is that it is the music of poor white people, people who are privileged to be white -- i will talk about that in a second -- but also people who are underprivileged in terms of their class identity and economic opportunities.
i am going to argue that for all --ents and purposes whiteness in the united states is an invention of the 17th century. to another corollary racial formation that is developing at the same time, which is blackness. what does it mean to be black, what does it mean to be white? is by 1792, the late as acentury, whiteness category of identity is baked right into citizenship.
act,aturalization does anybody know what it specifies? what types of people can become citizens? >> free white males. they don't say males, but they say persons. free white persons. so if we look back into the 17th century and all of the racial discourse that in many ways this naturalization act culminates, what we see is these two categories increasingly being constructed.
, if free whitesk persons can become citizens of the new nation, who can't/ ? who can't become a citizen? we know who can, right? what other types of people are there? >> slaves. prof. seiler: ok. so people who are not free. who else? >> native americans. prof. seiler: absolutely. people who are not white. who else? >> women. prof. seiler: women can become citizens but have no voting rights. who else? who is free and who is not free? the slaves absolutely are not free.
settlers to the united states are going to be poor. how do they come, how do they arrive, under what conditions? >> indentured servitude. prof. seiler: yes. most white settlers arrived under conditions of indenture, where you essentially bond your labor out. you say, in return for passage to the new world, i'm going to bond myself to some sort of ofter for a specified period time, usually seven years -- not always, sometimes more, sometimes less. it is essentially a contract into which a person enters, be free to donot what i want until the period of indenture has elapsed.
most white settlers, especially most scots-irish,, under conditions of indenture. somewhere in pennsylvania of betweentury, somewhere 60% and 70% of white settlers, under condition of indenture. they are not free. so you cannot be indentured, you have to be a free white person to be a citizen by 1792. what does indenture really mean? well, one of the things we see is an is something that is going to be developed mostly in jamestown by the virginia company. in terms ofises settling the new world are companies, commercial ventures. the virginia company that starts
jamestown and other settlements is going to be a very big on indenture, because one of the things that jamestown needs his workers and soldiers. land, harvestar crops, built all these things, and soldiers to defend the ofony against the incursion mostly powhatan confederacy native americans. but also to use violence to obtain more land. so indenture is going to be a very handy way of finding white settlers, who might want to go off on their own and do something else -- binding those people to the colony and the enterprise. all right, so what does this mean? also in jamestown in 1619, you have the first african slaves.
-- youvery at this time have a ship load of slaves brought to jamestown -- but slavery at this time is a very ambiguous condition. what does it mean to be enslaved versus indentured? so what you have in the virginia of the 17th century is a tremendous underclass. you have a very small planter class, the elite, who are in the virginia house of burgesses, who control the political economy of the day. but they are very few in number. the vast majority of people are so, andten abjectly there also on free -- they are also unfree.
so you have a tremendous biracial underclass. threatening tobe the planter elite? why would it be threatening? class, largeanter underclass. what is the threat? >> revolt. , and seiler: revolt conspiracy between these two groups, who might come together and say, we are getting a raw deal. why are they in charge, why do they control the resources and we are doing the work? a virginia elite of the time, what do you do? >> try to divide the underclass. prof. seiler: divide the underclass, good.
because i'm not saying there is some sort of racial utopia happening here between the lower classes. these scots-irish and others, english settlers and poor, they arrived with preconceived notions of racial difference. ,ut this biracial underclass white indentured laborers, , and thelaves difference is very ambiguous between the two. they work together, live together, party together, they hooked up, and they played music together. so there are correspondences and alliances potentially forming that if you are a member of the planter elite you want to prevent that from happening. you want to drive a wedge between those two groups.
is over thesee course of the 17th century, laws being put into effect that define increasingly what it means to be black and what it means to be white. does is it essentially creates whiteness as a form of capital. i've used this term before. what do i mean by whiteness as a form of capital? anybody own any capital? you own any capital, jeff? >> money. prof. seiler: what can you do with that money? -- buyhings -- eye things and make a social statement, kind of. prof. seiler: it empowers you.
i want us to think about the whiteness that emerges in the 17th century imparting a very valuable piece of capital to white people. is, as what we see whiteness coalesces over the 17th and 18th century, whiteness by 1792 get to something really good. what is it? what does it get you? >> citizenship. prof. seiler: they get to -- itnship, absolutely gets you citizenship, absolutely. so whiteness as a form of capital, something you can use, something that empowers you, elevates your life chances. this is what capital does. are a few key dates here. in 1639, the virginia house of burgesses passes a law that caulkedes any slave
with a firearm will receive -- with a firearmt will receive 20 lashes. the forgetting of arms to slaves. fromses of extreme danger indian incursions, the slave might be allowed a firearm that would be taken away right after. what this means is that for white people, what it means to be white ultimately is to be able to defend the settlement against indian incursion, to be able to be equipped to go out and take territory through violence, and one other thing. means to bee person able to put down a slave rebellion.
here comes that wedge between this group. whites can bear arms, blacks cannot. from 1639 forward, this is the law of the land. what this means essentially is that military service is both a duty and a privilege of whiteness. a duty and a privilege of whiteness. it is for bid and to people -- to people ofen color, the carrying of arms is forbidden. if we think about country music today, what is it stands generally speaking on the military? >> positive. prof. seiler: it is very promilitary. a certain are about type of very assertive nationalism backed up through military force. if we go back and trace that vision of whiteness to 1639, we
see that a privilege and a duty of whiteness is military service. what does military service get you? in addition to potentially getting you killed or maimed -- but what does it get you? respect.imes prof. seiler: what about other types of resources? what happened after the second world war? soldiers came back, what did they get? >> money, going to school, stuff like that. prof. seiler: what was that called? >> g.i. bill. prof. seiler: the g.i. bill gave veterans money to go to college, money to buy houses, real material resources. and the army after 1948 is
segregated. so again, military service remains largely a privilege and duty of whiteness. it gets you certain things. so what are we seeing happening to that class of indentured white laborers and soldiers? if the condition used to be one of rough equality, certain laws begin to raise whiteness up a and create increasingly a hierarchy in which the poor whites can feel themselves -- well, we are not rich but we are also not down here -- to create a sort of intermediate group between the planters and slaves. it is very effective as a means of social control. -- it is really
the forbidding of arms to -- i say african-americans because there were free people of color at this time, slavery not terribly codified until later in the century. oops --s the 16 60's -- where things increasingly get more locked down in terms of who can be a slave, who cannot be a slave. --very becomes a condition suffice it to say, slavery conditionclusively a
of people codified as black. a few laws to talk about here. thatirst stipulates slavery is a lifelong condition. unlike indenture -- indenture is a temporary condition. seven years, 30 years, two years -- whatever your contract is, that is the duration. slavery is a lifelong condition, and slavery is a heritable condition. you can be born into slavery, and that is your condition. well, who -- how do we know? , as is happening here is
said, there is a lot of interracial contact. contact between a slave woman, for example, and a planter white man, what type of baby does that give you? public enemy had a great record a few years ago. anybody heard it? great song where they -- they do this racial math and assay, white mama, white daddy, white baby. black mama, black daddy, black baby. black mama, white daddy, what color? black? now i have lost track. daddy, whatblack color baby? is, in three or four of those crosses, you get somebody who is black.
for example, barack obama, black or white? black. but his mom is white, so how is he black? >> because he is not white. skin pigmentation, i guess. prof. seiler: any other reasons? one of the things that happens 60's is there is a law passed that says the condition of slavery is a condition heritable from the mother. so it is whatever your mother is, that is what you are. and because there was so much more interracial contact -- sexual congress, rape and otherwise -- between white , theers and enslaved women
progeny produced is always going to be slave. the other law that gets passed is that the condition of slavery who wereive to those not baptized christian in their home country. not baptized christian in their home country. but since all the indentured and poor are from europe, they are christian. originallylaves are -- their home country is somewhere in africa, well, they are going to be susceptible to being enslaved. so as blackness is increasingly circumscribed within the parameters of slavery, what is happening to whiteness at this time? what is the corollary?
whiteness is expanding. prof. seiler: conditions of whiteness are expanding, but you might also say they are narrowing. remember three of those crosses i mentioned between parents of different racial groups, three of them are going to net you a black child. only one is going to get you a white child, and that is the cross between whites. in fact, what you see also is prescription and laws emerging that prohibit intermarriage between black and white, which happened. and clone you virginia and inewhere -- which happened colonial virginia and elsewhere. but now what you see is laws policing wife's in terms of who they can -- policing whites in terms of who they can marry. if you marry a person of color, you will be banished from the colony.
this creates whiteness as a precious commodity. if you sully it, if you mix it, ruin it, you are no longer entitled to it. so what happens to whiteness at this time as blackness increasingly becomes legally associated with slavery, whiteness becomes legally associated with freedom. with various forms of opportunity. and as this happens, that wedge is driven between these black and white groups. 1676 in western virginia, you have bacon's rebellion, which is a coalition of poor whites and slaves, who come together. they are sent out onto the
frontier to essentially fight native americans, and they look at each other and say, why are we fighting them when our real enemy is the planter class? they assemble a large enough force to threaten planter power in the virginia colony. the virginia house of burgesses arer 1676 says, no more, we going to drive that wedge between the poor whites and the slaves, and we're going to do it by elevating the whites and denigrating the slaves, ensuring that black and white to not come together in a biracial alliance that could potentially threaten planter power. the whites who are the beneficiaries and the victims of this racial efficient -- i say beneficiaries and victims. beneficiaries because what you
get if you buy into this is -- i am white, i am free. if i am white, what it means is no one can ever owned me. they might treat me badly, they might put me in conditions of indenture, they might ensure i live in poverty, but they cannot own me. they can only own black people. and this creates also some sort of aspiration to upward mobility themany poor whites from 17th century through the 19th centuries. the aspiration is not to necessarily equalize things, but it is instead to become a slave owner yourself. that ik of my freedom is can own other people and no one can own me because i am white. in that way, they are
beneficiaries of this new racial formation of whites. in what ways are the victims of it? isl, one thing that happens that there is less and less possibility of some sort of multiracial coalition that would have the numbers to be able to overthrow the elite power and create some sort of new configuration, more democratic, more egalitarian. increasinglys are victimized by this. there is no possibility of any real change. to be --lways going there is always going to be an underclass. you might be able to get out of it, get rich, but there is always going to be an underclass. so what we see over the next couple centuries is this ideology of whiteness, whiteness as a form of capital, whiteness
as the sort of life raft, by which poor whites say, well, at least i'm not black. i may be poor, but nobody can own me. i can be a citizen. 1830'sush this up to the and the time of mass democracy in the united states, we see the emergence of what is called universal manhood suffrage, in which property requirements are meninded and all eligible -- white men -- can vote. it is a time of tremendous democratic ferment in united states. applies to people who are classified as free white persons exclusively. whiteness as a resource that gets you things, but also as something that really prevents any sort of larger
transformation to something more democratic, more egalitarian. background by which we need to understand country music. how many people like country music? ok. by the end of class, you will all love country music, i promise. the country music hall of fame, which is great -- you should definitely go there if you're in nashville. the country is one of these disparate musical forms, as erin fox reminds us, precisely because it articulates a specific white identity that is not simply the unmarked whiteness that most white people live, but instead is a particularly that is often regional, usually southern, and emphatically white.
, as fox says,se more cosmopolitan listeners. of theseas the music scots-irish people? well, they are primarily ballots -- ballads. we have heard ballads before, right? most of the people who came to the united states from ulster and other parts of northern ireland, they are going to be illiterate. so we are very much in the same stagalee, at of
valid transmitted orally. orally.lad transmitted how does that differ from print literature? a few ways, but one in particular? >> there is no defined author, it is evolving. you can truly accurately trace a lot of it. with print literature you have this is the story, this is the author, it does not change. but oral literature, you can change to fit the situation and it is always changing, involving. prof. seiler: always changing and evolving, yes. this is a group of people with an oral literature that they take with them. , thesewe see in stagalee areots -- ballads
significant because of the values they impart, because of the stories they tell. and this is particularly true of hillbilly music. these stories are didactic. what does didactic mean? >> it is like imparting a moral lesson. could not have said it better, absolutely. so these stories, as they travel , they become a code for living for people without a print a veryure and without robust governance structure. -- i guess itmple was about 25 years ago. a psychologist did an experiment he had men go into a room
and take a test, and then he said, come out with me, we are going to take another test. as they walked down the hall, a confederate of the psychologist comes to the man and bumps him with his shoulder. and they moved on or did not move on. and what the test was supposed to register was levels of aggression, levels of assertiveness. and the hypothesis that the psychologist was testing was whether or not southern men have higher levels of aggressiveness and assertiveness. he found in fact that they did. when they were bumped by the other experimenter, the southern men got angrier and took longer to back down or call down -- or
calm down and demanded some sort of apology. this is a field of f no psychology -- a field of ethno psychology that the researcher was working in and he found the southern men do have a proclivity to escalate smaller slights. they also tested how hard the bomb was, how belligerent the experimenter was back -- how was and howb belligerent the experimenter was and found that seven men did exhibit more found -- found that southern men did exhibit more belligerents. the reason for this is that on the southern frontier where you have southern colonials threatened first in ulster by indigenous irish and then in
appalachia by native americans, also construed as savages -- the ideology of savagery is lifted from ireland and placed into the american context. in a situation of menace all around you like that and also in f hannahion where steals my sheep -- and she definitely would, she likes wool -- what can i do? keep in mind, i am not on the frontier. what do i do? do i go to the cops? no cops. i have to execute the law myself. that means i'm going to steal
hannahs sheep or maybe kill hannah. sorry, hannah. why? why would i have to kill her for stealing my sheep? >> [inaudible] prof. seiler: yeah, as a warning to anyone else who might ever attempt such a thing that i ultimately will control justice and no one will slight me or wrong me. there is a sense here for people thatg out on the frontier a moral code and stories -- the ballads are all stories of breach and redress and tremendous violence. have we seen that before? violence, tremendous tremendous assertiveness?
lee, right?;le same way that people with out-of-print literature and people who could not appeal to a 30. the african-american community , theyveloped stagolee cannot look to authority to avenge their wrong, they have to create a situation in which there can be some sort of justice meted out without authorities. songs that arrived on this frontier are largely songs about violence. about the fragility of life, about the dangers of getting overly emotional. what happens to people if they are swept up in a motion, and what is the biggest emotion you get swept up
hillbilly music. , in to give you an example the middle of the 20th century, a great country music duo recorded a song called "knoxville girl." it recounts the murder of a young woman by her lover, who accuses her of being faithless. go down, go down, you knoxville girl, with the dark and roving eye. go down, go down, you knoxville girl. you will never be my bride. he murders her with a stick and then comes back to his family's cabin with blood all over him.
he tells his mother i had a nosebleed. in this version, he is in jail, and what we see as knoxville traceable back to an event that took place in england in 1684. it was variously called oxford , tomorrow id girl shall hang. all of these different titles and different events that get narrated in different ways, as randy said, the transformation of oral literature is its essence, its ability to speak to different audiences and different circumstances. so, in a frontier town like knoxville, tennessee, way, way
out in the 18th century and 19th century, way out on the frontier , if be some sort warning you do this, this will happen, but also stories of violence, .tories of emotional intensity country music has always had these from the earliest days precisely because this was the music that the scots irish valued as they came over. , in 1916, cecil , these are british
musicologists who have heard that there are english folk being, that have survived some sort of passage to the united states, long before it was the united states. when it was just, you know, the colonies. thishey find that, they do great thing called song catching. they go out and they go to places like piedmont, north carolina, and the hills of tennessee and kentucky and they go to front porches and say, do you know any old songs? oh, yeah, i know lots of old songs. can you sing some forest? and they would transcribe them, and in some cases record them. is this remind you of anything else? what?
patrick? yes. do, and whatthey they find is that you can trace the passage of these songs and the subject matter might differ in terms of characters, might be instead of wexford girl, knoxville girl, but the same song, the same ballot, and often the same tune as well. and when they ask an old woman at her cabin, do you know any old songs? oh, yeah, i know some old songs. i will sing one for you. and they sing a song like barber allen, which is one of the earliest ballads. you get, where did that? and what did they say inevitably?
my grandmother sang it to me, her mother, her grandmother sang it to her. it is a song that gets asked down orally that has no real again, it is basically serving the social function of a group of people surrounded byier potential violence, but also people who are fundamentally shaped by modernity, and what i mean by that, people who are fundamentally shaped by the flux and upheaval of modernity. the settlers might stay in place for a while, but the impulse was always to push west, the search for better land, the search for
more opportunity. reason you might argue is precisely because their whiteness enable them to exploit the opportunities that come with pushing west in the frontier. economic growth, for example, under slavery in the southwestern cotton frontier, to be able to buy into that economic opportunity, the possibility of becoming liketeaders in places kansas and oklahoma and nebraska , because whiteness gets you citizenship. it gets your representation in congress. he gets you the possibility may even of a public education. gives you the possibility maybe even of a public education. these and other scholars of country music want us to understand that country music
and the people who developed it, not as pre-modern, but as shaped formed in the cauldron of modernity itself, constant motion, constant flux, upheaval.nheale alright, i would leave it there and see you on tuesday, thursday. join us every saturday evening at 8:00 p.m. and midnight eastern as we join students and college classrooms to hear lectures on topics ranging from the american revolution to 9/11, lectures in history are also available as podcasts. visit our website, c-span.org/history/podcasts or download them from itunes. next week on c-span in prime
at 8:00 p.m.night eastern, hear from some of the leaveats buying to the party, including ray buckley, jamie harrison, and keith ellison from minnesota. in 2014, we hit a 70 year low , theter turnout, 36% democratic caucus is smaller than at any time since truman. in this last election, we had a 20 year low. we have a lot of rebuilding to do. >> tuesday night at 8:00, president obama and japanese prime minister shinzo abe visit the naval base at pearl harbor. the first sitting japanese leader to visit the site of the attack that launched u.s. involvement in world war ii. wednesday night at 8:00, a review of house and senate hearings on topics including the
flint, michigan water crisis, and the wells fargo unauthorized account scandal. >> seriously? you found one of your divisions had created 2 million fake accounts, had fired employees for improper behavior, and had cheated thousands of your own customers, and you did not even once consider firing her ahead of her retirement? 8:00 p.m.y at eastern, some of the political figures that passed away in 2016, including former first lady nancy reagan and supreme court justice antonin scalia grade friday night at 8:00, our in memoriam program continues with shimon peres, mohammed ollie, and john glenn. next weekend primetime on c-span. on december 16, 1773, thousands of massachusetts colonists gathered in boston to discuss a shipment of teas that had recently arrived from britain.